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Full text of "A story about a real man"

342                                                                                                     B. POLEVOI
me there in the grim, oak-panelled hall. And right there,
in Nuremberg, the cradle of fascism, I felt an urge to
tell the story about one of the millions of common Soviet
people who had smashed Keitel's armies and Goering's air
fleet, who had sent Roeder's ships to the bottom, and with
powerful blows had shattered Hitler's predatory state.
I had with me in Nuremberg the yellow-covered school
exercise books, one of which bore the inscription in Ma-
resyev's hand: "Log of the Combat Flights of Squadron
Three." On returning to my lodgings from the sitting of
the Tribunal I went over the old notes and began to write
again, and tried truthfully to relate all I knew about
Alexei Maresyev from what he had told me.
Much of what he told me I had not managed to get
down, and much had slipped my memory during those
four years. In his modesty, Alexei Maresyev had left
out a great deal about himself and I was obliged mental-
ly to fill these gaps. The portraits of his friends that he
had drawn so vividly and cordially that night had faded
from my memory and I was obliged to restore them.
Unable to adhere strictly to the facts here I slightly
changed the name of the hero and gave new names of
his companions and helpers on his arduous and heroic
road. I hope they will excuse me for this if they recog-
nise their portraits in this story.
I have given this book the title: A Story About a Real
Man because Alexei Maresyev is a real Soviet man, the
likes of whom Hermann Goering never understood until
the day of his shameful death, and to this day are not
understood by all those who are prone to forget the les-
sons of history, by those who even now are secretly wish-
ing to take the path of Napoleon and Hitler.
That is how A Story About a Real Man came to be
written. After the manuscript had been prepared for the
press I wanted the principal hero of the book to read it
before it was published, but I had lost all trace of him in
the hurly-burly of the war; neither the airmen with whom
we were both acquainted nor the official quarters where
I made inquiries could help me find Alexei Petrovich
Maresyev.
The story was already appearing in a magazine and
was being read over the radio when, one morning, my